10 things you didn’t know about Devon and Cornwall

From the pros (ancient bakeries) to the cons (high radioactivity), make sure you know your facts before making the journey to Devon and Cornwall

10 Things You Didn't Know About Devon and Cornwall

1. The River Tamar is a natural boundary between Devon and Cornwall. According to recent research by Oxford University there is a stark genetic division that closely matches this border, meaning that people on either side of the river have totally different DNA dating back to 600 AD.

2. Forget about leaving the country for a much-needed dose of Vitamin D. Last year, Plymouth Marine Laboratory smugly announced that Cornish seas were hotter than Santa Monica, California, so brave that bikini and top up that tan.

3. Kernowek, the Cornish language, has had less impact on English than Hawaiian, Swahili or Zulu, ranking 45th on the list of the languages we have borrowed the most words from. Supposedly this is down to Anglo-Saxon snobbery. After all, when was the last time you used the word fugou? That’s Cornish for a house dug into the ground, by the way.

4. As if the region’s favourite snack didn’t have enough to worry about with the pasty tax – apparently the direction you crimp your pasty depends on where you’re from. That’s to the side for a proper Cornish pasty and on the top if you’re from Devon. Every year a world pasty championship is held, this year it was won by a Chilean miner and an 88-year-old woman.

5. Westward Ho! is the only place in Britain that uses an exclamation mark. We think it makes it sound rather jolly. It is also the only place to be named after a book, Charles Kingsley’s 1855 novel, to be precise. Developers rode on the coat tails of its success, building a hotel using its name. It’s stuck ever since.

6. Can you imagine trying to buy furniture to fit a 16-sided house? That was the problem facing Jane Parminter and her cousin Mary, who designed and lived in Britain’s only Hexadecagon home in Exmouth. Mixing Byzantine motifs with Georgian country cottage vibes, they filled it with objects they collected on their ten-year grand tour.

7. Joseph Hansom was a real jack-of-all-trades. Not only did he design the handsome cathedral in Plymouth, he invented the world’s first taxi, otherwise known as a ‘hansom cab’.

8. … and while you’re there, sample some heritage hotcakes at Jackas on Southside Street. Britain’s oldest bakery has been baking buns since Sir Francis Drake’s time, originally selling ship biscuits to voyagers, it fuelled pilgrims all the way to the Americas.

9. There’s something fantastically sci-fi about the sign cautioning ‘you are now entering a radioactive area’ on the border crossing from Somerset into Devon. Devon and Cornwall are in fact the most radioactive parts of the UK, but it’s not all bad news, the high levels of radon are partially responsible for its stunning hilly landscape.

10. Who ever said you couldn’t find the answer at the bottom of a glass? Michael Morpurgo was inspired to write War Horse after meeting some veterans at his local pub, The Duke of York in Iddesleigh, Dartmoor.

 

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Britain’s new i360 tower a ‘pier in the sky’

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The world’s tallest moving observation tower, the i360, opens to the public on Thursday, a futuristic landmark that has transformed the historic seafront in the English tourist resort of Brighton.

A 162-metre (530-foot) high steel tower is ringed by a doughnut-shaped glass observation pod that gently glides up and down.

The design is meant to be a 21st-century take on the Victorian pleasure piers that characterise British seaside towns: this time, a vertical pier in the sky, according to project chiefs.

It is hoped that the attraction will further boost tourism in the southeastern resort of Brighton, a gem of 1700s and 1800s architectural grandeur.

Designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield, the tower is the sequel to their London Eye observation wheel, which opened in the British capital in 2000 and is one of its most popular visitor attractions.

Several places wanted a copy of the giant wheel, but the husband-and-wife team felt the concept wasn’t viable in smaller cities.

Instead they took the chance to recalibrate it for Brighton, already Britain’s most popular seaside destination for foreign tourists, in this project that has taken 13 years of work to come to fruition.

“The key ingredient, as with the London Eye, is moving very slowly to a great height for a fantastic view,” said Barfield.

– ‘The architecture of pleasure’ –

The i360 sits at the entrance to the 1866-built West Pier, which burnt down in 2003.

With a height to diameter ratio of 40 to one, it is the world’s slenderest tall tower, according to Guinness World Records.

“This is very much in the spirit of the West Pier, whose purpose was to delight, entertain and inspire people,” Marks told AFP, standing at the top of the tower.

“Just as it invited Victorian society to go out and walk on water, the i360 turns that concept vertically and invites people to walk on air and get a new perspective on the city.

“Everybody seems to love a great view,” he added.

“It’s a pleasure both to the eyes and the intellect not only to gaze at the horizons but to look beyond them.”

The tower cost £46 million ($61 million, 55 million euros) to build but promises to break even as long as it attracts around half its estimated annual 700,000 visitors.

From the top, visitors can see for 26 miles (42 kilometres) along the coast and out over the English Channel.

Until now, the Royal Pavilion has been Brighton’s standout landmark: an over-the-top, mock Indian palace completed in 1823 as a seaside residence for King George IV, who was known for his indulgent lifestyle.

The Sussex city is also known for its Georgian and Regency terraces, as well as its later Victorian piers, and is now home to an up-and-coming arty crowd and is often considered Britain’s “gay capital”.

The tower’s designers say the new structure, which dominates the city’s skyline, is in keeping with Brighton’s history of bold architecture built for pleasure, but it has not been universally welcomed by locals.

The tower’s nicknames range from the “iSore” to more sexually innuendoed names, and some residents decry the local authority taking on a £36 million loan to fund the project — though the city council insists it is charging the i360 a higher rate than the borrowing costs.

– Alien spacecraft-style pod –

The 18-metre diameter pod — technically an oblate ellipsoid shape — is pulled up by a giant cog and steel cable winch system, located underground. It also uses a counterweight within the tower.

Christian Bouvier, vice-president of French cable car experts Poma, which built the pod and the drive mechanism, said the vertical lift system was a new technical challenge for the company.

“This has never been done before,” he told AFP.

The 200-capacity pod looked like a visiting alien spacecraft when first assembled next to a cornfield in France, Bouvier said.

Looking out from his maiden ride in the pod, he said: “It’s really the wow effect. It is sensational to see, as if in a helicopter.”

Bouvier compared the i360 to Paris’s most famous tower.

“David Marks is really the Gustave Eiffel of our century,” he claimed.

The tower’s lattice steel cladding is designed to diffuse the wind so that it does not wobble, and to protect it from expanding in the sun.

“The results of this actually turned out better than the theory,” said Bouvier.

The pod will travel up and down around 200 times a week, starting in September, and cost visitors £15 ($20, 18 euros) a ride.

by Robin Millard

© 2016 AFP

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Find Archive Film Footage in the UK and Ireland

As part of its current Britain on Film season, the BFI has produced an interactive ‘film map’ that allows you to search for archive videos made in your local area. Tap in your postcode and the site brings up any films it has related to said location.

Find the map here: http://player.bfi.org.uk/britain-on-film/map/

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The collection ranges from 1895 to the present day and includes adverts, newsreels, government-made films, TV shows and movies, as well as the world’s earliest home movies dating back to 1902.
London is particularly well represented, though it has to be said that the search can yield fairly broad results at present — better to think in terms of larger areas like the East End or the City rather than your local launderette. The project is in its early stages but has grand ambitions to grow the current catalogue of 2,500 digitized archive films to 10,000 by 2017.
Ultimately the aim is so create a huge interactive library that will offer instant insights into the past and easy access to a rich variety of material once locked away in warehouses and dusty attics. The BFI is keen for the public to get involved too, so the collection can expand further.

The map works for London, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Dublin.

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